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Coping With Stress in the Workplace
Stress is now listed as the biggest single cause of sickness in the UK, and according to the Health & Safety Executive, is responsible for over 10.5 million lost work days each year. A large percentage of these lost work days are attributed specifically to workplace stress, which has been increasingly common over the last two decades. There is no room for complacency where workplace stress is concerned as it can lead to an onset of many different physical and mental health problems, which can affect productivity, work quality, personal life, and overall level of health.
The UK economy is losing out on £1.24 billion every year due to the issue, and this is a conservative estimate based on directly attributable figures such as money lost on sick days. A healthy workforce is essential for long term business success, meaning this it's important for employers and employees to be able to recognize the symptoms of workplace stress, and to put measures in place to reduce it and its effects.
Understanding the Effects of Workplace Stress
A study conducted by Stress.org determined that 46% of stress illnesses were attributed to workload, 28% due to people issues, 20% due to juggling work and personal life, and 6% due to lack of job security, highlighting the nature of the issues which are causing dangerously high levels of stress. In many cases it is a combination of issues, work related and personal, which combine to make people feel like they are unable to cope with the demands of their job. There are many serious and life threatening health issues that can arise from long term high stress levels, and this link has been widely acknowledged by authorities, who are implementing measures to reduce and manage workplace stress. Some of the most serious health issues which can arise include hypertension and heart attacks. In some US municipalities, police officers who suffer from a heart attack are compensated as a work related injury, whether they were on duty or not, highlighting the serious nature of the problem and its potential affects outside of the workplace itself.
What are the Most Stressful Workplace Environments?
People often want to know which are the most and least stressful career paths, assuming that there will be certain jobs which are considered to be highly stressful and others which are deemed more relaxing. Lists such as this are seldom produced by stress management experts as they can distort the truth, which is that the job is not necessarily the issue, it's having the right people in the right jobs. Stress levels are increased dramatically when people feel out of their depth in a position, and this means that the right person in a high flying executive position may have lower stress levels than an unsuitable person in a seemingly less stressful job position. The most important thing to look at in with this issue is finding the right people for the right jobs. Some people thrive on responsibility, multi-tasking, and big decision making, whilst others cannot cope in this environment. Stress is highly personalized, meaning that each different individual will cope with situations in vastly different ways. Many police officers claim that the paperwork demands are more stressful to them than the active duty of dealing with dangerous criminals, yet a competent city office worker would probably say the reverse.
The Importance of Coping with Workplace Stress
One of the most important issues for coping with workplace stress is actually the ability to recognize the symptoms as early as possible so that measures can be put in place to prevent illness and reduce stress overload. A survey completed by Integra found that of those workers suffering from workplace stress, 62% complained of neck stiffness by the end of the work day, 44% suffered from sore eyes, 34% of stiff hands, and 34% had sleeping difficulties. This is just a small collection of the possible symptoms of stress, and things which should not be ignored. Coping with workplace stress as early as possible is the key to preventing more serious long term physical and mental health issues.
Coping mechanisms for workplace stress vary greatly depending on the main causes. A change in job position or function can be extremely helpful if the worker is not perfectly suited to the demands of the job, however, in most cases the issues are more complex than that. If managerial staff are suitably informed of the issue of employee stress, they may be able to help share workload, redistribute responsibilities, re-order team personnel, or address deeper issues which are causing high stress levels. The first step to any resolution program is always recognition of symptoms.